Posted by: Marie | June 2, 2012

(642) In it for the long haul – Part 1 of 4

Post #642
[Private journal entry written on Monday, June 20, 2011]

I had a therapy session today.

Edward’s office is on the second floor of an historic house. Before each session, I wait for him in the waiting room, which is the home’s former living room. When he is ready for me, he walks down the stairs to the waiting room to meet me.

Today, when he came into the waiting room, I was reading a book. He asked me what I was reading (as he always does when he finds me reading a book). As we started walking up the stairway together, I answered his questions . . .


Me: It’s “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh . . .

Edward: What is it about?

Me: It was written and published in the early 1950’s by a woman who would spend summers in Florida on the beach. She used what she saw around her – like sand, waves and seashells – in object lessons about important life matters. Her intended audience is specifically women. Each chapter is a separate essay with a unique object and a unique lesson.

Edward: What type of life lessons?

Me: Well, the first chapter encourages women to have patience and faith for the process of life unfolding – things happen in their own time and we need to relax and allow life to unfold on its own schedule.

And, chapter three encourages women to be thoughtful and purposeful in choosing how to give away their time and energy. She encourages them to make space and time for renewal – she emphasizes the importance of renewal and self-nurturing.


Edward: I’m surprised that, in that particular decade, an author would write a book that encourages women to set aside time for themselves.

Me: Yeah . . . she was ahead of her time.

Edward: Is it a good book?

Me: Yes, it is a good book . . . it is a quick read. However, it’s really not providing any great, new insights for me . . . it’s information I’ve heard and seen before many times.

For that reason, I doubt I’ll keep it in my personal “permanent” library for future reference. I’ll probably pass it along to someone else . . .

In fact, would it be okay if I left it in your waiting room when I finish with it?

Edward: I think that would be okay, but maybe you could give it to me instead, and I’ll check with the owner of the building. If she says it is okay, then I can put it there.

Me: Sounds great! I’ll give it to you when I’m done. Thank you!

Edward: Thank you for sharing it!

(By then, we had made it up the stairs and into his office. We settled into our seats and continued the conversation . . . )

Edward: Oh, I wanted to ask you . . . did you finish reading the “Heaven” book?

Me: Yeah, I did.

Edward: What was your final conclusion about it?

Me: The last half of the book was much like the first half . . . Todd’s son would describe what he experienced when he was out of body and then Todd – or Todd’s wife – would link the experience to something described in the Bible. The reference in the Bible would often be to something that the son would likely not have heard about before. Todd said that made it more likely, at least in his mind, that his son really did travel to heaven.

Their son also described a grandfather he never knew as well as a baby that Todd and his wife lost in a miscarriage – they never told their son about the miscarriage.

It was a pretty interesting book, overall. But, I must confess, I was starting to skim over words by the time I got to the end . . . it started becoming rather redundant.

Edward: Last time we talked about the book, you mentioned that Todd was being legalistic in his interpretation of the Bible relative to his son’s experience . . . did your opinion about that change as you read further in the book?

Me: No – he was legalistic all the way through. That’s very consistent with what we were taught in the church and in the theology program at the college. And, it is consistent with Todd’s personality – he is pretty rigid and legalistic in his approach to life.

In fact, as I was reading the book, I was struck by how hard he is on himself – how perfectly he believes he has to follow the rules of the Bible and the church . . .

Edward: It sounds like he might not be able to allow himself to enjoy the experience of being human . . . true . . . ??

Me: Yes, I think that is true. I think he is very committed to “doing it right” and I kept getting the sense, while reading the book, that he feels a great deal of anxiety from the constant pressure to be a “good” pastor, a “good” husband, a “good” father, a “good” community leader . . .

Edward: How sad! Ouch!

(I nodded my head in agreement)

Edward: (After a respectful pause) So, how are you? I read in your email that things have been up and down for you since the last session . . .

Me: Yeah . . . I’m actually feeling pretty upbeat today . . . I’ve actually been pretty upbeat for the last couple of days.

When I was feeling low in the days right after the session, I kept finding myself back in the place of wanting to die. That would last an hour or two, then I would get distracted and forget about wanting to die. Then, the next time I would think about it, I’d realize I was back to the ambivalent place again.

I think it is a good sign that I can sit with really tough pain and not get stuck in the “wanting to die” cycle. That’s a positive shift, I think!

Edward: I’d say that going from always wanting to die, to being ambivalent about dying is a HUGE step! Congratulations on creating that level of healing for yourself!

Me: (Grinning) Thanks!

While we are on that topic, there is something I’ve been wanting to ask you . . .

Anytime I’ve talked about wanting to kill myself, you haven’t seemed very worried about it. That surprises me. I mean, I would expect a therapist to get really concerned if a client expresses a desire to die. But, you don’t seem to get concerned when I talk about it . . .

Why not?

Edward: Well, you have been very clear that, at this point, you have only a desire to die and not an actual plan for killing yourself. You have also been very clear that you are planning to stay alive for as long as your mom is alive. So, I’m not very concerned about you actually committing suicide at this point in time.

And, I hope that, if you ever got to the point where you were actually planning to kill yourself, you and I would both be attuned enough to know that was happening and we could take steps to address it.

Me: But . . . if things shifted and I were actively planning to kill myself, I wouldn’t talk about it . . . I’d just do it. I’d make a point of not mentioning it to you because mentioning it to you would give you the opportunity to make sure I didn’t have the opportunity to kill myself.

Edward: I’d like to think I’m attuned enough to know if you were moving in that direction.

(After thinking about it for a moment, I nodded my head in acknowledgment of what he said . . . and maybe even in agreement . . . )

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. This looks like being quite a discussion. The usual distinction people rely on to sort out whether to worry about someone killing themselves is if they are making/have made plans.

    This gets a bit complicated when their therapist may stop them killing themselves and so they may want to withhold the information.

    • You make great points . . . how to know when to really worry and the wanting to withhold from one’s therapist.

      I had to think long and hard about telling Edward that I wanted to die . . . because I knew that, as soon as I told him, I was removing my option of ever doing it. Before I could tell him, I had to be fairly certain that I could find a way to not get to that point of actually trying to kill myself.

      Thank you for your thoughts!

  2. I have attempted suicide three times in my life, and been hospitalized for feeling suicidal 5 other times. From these experiences I have learned when to seek help. I know I am in trouble when I start gathering supplies (hoarding pills, for instance), and keeping secrets from my therapist. When I set a date I know I am in deep trouble. Even though I might be 99% wanting to die, and only 1% wanting to live, I reach out for help. Through therapy I have learned that one thing that is going on is that I am really trying to kill off that vulnerable child within myself. Mostly when I have wanted to die it’s been because I felt overwhelmingly “bad” and hopeless that I can ever feel differently. I hope you can spend some time now figuring our what *your* point of no return is, and develop a plan for how you and your therapist will handle it. It’s good to be prepared.

    • Hi, Catherine –

      It sounds like you have had some pretty dark times in your life! It’s great that you have a system figured out for knowing when to reach out for help and to whom you can reach out!

      Thanks for the great advice!

      – Marie

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